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Q & A with Father Anthony

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How does a parent help a son through the seminary years?

Graciella asks:

Dear Father,

I am a parent of a son who is studying for the Priesthood. He is concerned that there does not seem to be much joy at present in his vocation and he is unable to explain the cause of this. How can a parent best help him? Is God, do you think, hiding from my son, and really saying, "You're going to have to dig deeper, if you hope to find Me !" My son is very sociable, a worrier, and wants to know God's Will for him in life. Thank you for reading this, Father, and I would appreciate very much your advice on how my son may approach this situation.

God Bless !


Dear Graciella,

It is a beautiful thing to see your desire to help and encourage your son in the difficulty he is going through in his vocation. It is important, however, that in your concern you maintain sufficient distance and don’t fall into the mistake of motherly smothering and that you don’t get impatient to see him out of the problem.

The first and most important thing you can do is pray. Pray that he will place all his anxiety in God's and Mary's hands, that he will grow in his trust in his heavenly Father, that he will put Christ and souls solidly at the center of his life and interests, and that he will live all the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Offer some regular and significant sacrifice too for this intention. And, very important, DON'T tell him in detail what you are doing, just that you are praying that he will do what is right. Encourage him to pray and to speak regularly with his spiritual director.

Rather than pray to know God's will, I would suggest he prays to God to grant him the truest and deepest love for Christ and souls. Tell him that if he does that sincerely, and perseveres at it, he should trust that God will lead him and give him the graces he needs when he needs them.

Now, you say he is a worrier, so he is going to have his own special difficulties—every temperament has its own. As a worrier, he will tend to want to be absolutely certain about things, to have clarity and all the contingencies covered, not to want to make a mistake. The problem is, in a vocation to the priesthood as in the married vocation, you reflect, prepare, try to be prudently sure, but you know that down the road once you commit yourself, many unforeseen things will happen—there will be no lack of both unforeseen difficulties and unexpected, marvelous joys. Married couples put their trust in each other and in God's grace to face all that their particular vocation will bring; the priest puts his trust in Christ with whom he has identified, in the Father who loves him, in the Spirit who will strengthen him. That is one of the habits and outlooks that he has to develop during his seminary years, and, surprisingly, our difficulties are usually the path that lead us to develop these habits. The worrier tends to want to know the whole plan, the full picture, but he has to learn to learn trust and pray as Blessed Newman did, "one step is enough for me."

It may help if you encourage him to read books that will help him understand and live God's providence and the priesthood, books like "In the Shadow of his Wings" by Fr Goldman, and Fr Walter Ciszek's two books, "With God in Russia" and "He Leadeth Me", or stories of the martyrs.

God bless, and be sure I will keep you and your son in my prayers,

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